Local Christmas in Romania Experts
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What makes Christmas in Romania so special?
Christmas is the most important religious celebration in Romania and many centuries-old traditions are still alive, especially in the northern region of Maramures.
Attending the Christmas mass in traditional clothes in a wooden church
On Christmas day, villagers put on their colorful, hand-made traditional clothes and attend the Christmas mass. Maramures is famous for its wooden churches and many villages have one which is used for this occasion. The image of people wearing traditional clothes inside a wooden church is very powerful and brings you back in time centuries ago. It also tells a lot about the spirituality and deeper connection these people have with their heritage and nature.
Caroling is usually associated with Christmas but its origins are rather connected the winter solstice and the passing into a new year. So in Romania caroling takes place throughout December and into the first days of January. On the Christmas Eve it is both children and adults which sing carols, visiting all the houses in the village. Some of carols refer to the birth of Jesus but many of them carry messages about regeneration, abundance, fertility, warding off evil spirits. A carol with a religious connotation is The Star (Steaua), happening on Christmas Eve. Usually, a group of 4 boys carry a star made of wood, decorated with colored paper and a light singing about the night when The Three Wise Men following the big star arrived to the place where Jesus was born bringing presents. The “Play of the Old Men” (Jocul Moșilor) on the other hand is a carol played by men wearing masks and dancing, having pagan roots. The one wearing the mask has the possibility transcend and take over the special powers of the mask and at the same time allow him to have an unnatural behavior. A similar carol is called Brondosii whereby men wear masks and bells and go through the village trying to ward of the evil spirits.
Traditional Christmas dinner
The traditional food for Christmas in Maramures is forcemeat rolls in cabbage (sarmale), different kinds of pork sausages, sponge cakes, home-made cakes and for drinks palinca (plum or apple brandy). You can notice that pork meat is the main ingredient and there is a reason for that. Local families usually raise a pig throughout the year which they slaughter in the weeks before Christmas and then prepare meat products from it like sausage, lard, bacon, dry-cured ham. This is a centuries-old tradition, from the times when animals where sacrificed and offered to Gods. The time for this sacrifice was just before the Winter Solstice, on December 20 (St Igantius Day) a date which is still considered the right time for the slaughtering. Tradition says that one should not feel sorry for the animal and preparing the food and eating it should be joyful.
The white winter feel
Maramures is a mountainous region and it is very common that during Christmas all of it is covered with snow, making it a fairy-tale looking land. Add to that all the wonderful traditions, the delicious food and very welcoming locals and you get a wonderful location for a Christmas vacation. Have you experienced the magic of Christmas in Romania? Share your experience here...
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